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Income tax cut signalled as Davidson targets election

THE Scottish Conservatives have signalled that voters could be offered deeper income tax cuts in a bid to make headway at the next Holyrood election.

BLUE SKY THINKING: Ruth Davidson outlined her hope she could offer an even deeper cut in income tax than had already been pledged by the Tories. Picture: Colin Mearns
BLUE SKY THINKING: Ruth Davidson outlined her hope she could offer an even deeper cut in income tax than had already been pledged by the Tories. Picture: Colin Mearns

In a wide-ranging speech marking her first year as Scots Tory leader, Ruth Davidson said she wanted to go further than the 1p basic rate cut already pledged by her party.

She also vowed to free schools from council control to offer parents more choice and dismantle what she described as "Scotland's educational Berlin Wall".

In another indication of developing Conservative policy, Ms Davidson called for the Scottish Government's green energy drive to be checked to "halt the march of the turbines".

Ms Davidson, who leads a group of 15 MSPs, championed traditional Tory values in her speech to supporters in Glasgow.

She said the Scottish Conservatives would go into the 2016 Holyrood election promising to use powers coming to the Parliament under the new Scotland Act to cut income tax.

Ms Davidson said: "Scottish Conservatives want to see people keep more of the money they earn and not have it eaten up by excessive government spending.

"We believe in prioritising the family budget over the Government budget. That is why we are committed to reducing personal taxation when the power to do so comes to the Scottish Parliament in 2016 and I want us to look further to see if 1p in the pound is all we can afford."

Holyrood will set a portion of basic rate income tax from 2016 as part of measures designed to make MSPs more accountable for the money they spend.

Ms Davidson added: "I am committed to trying to reduce the tax burden in Scotland when these powers come on board."

She said children from poorer backgrounds were on the wrong side of an "educational divide" and vowed to offer more choice.

Schools would be given the chance to leave council control under Tory plans, while those which remained would be handed greater freedom to tailor the curriculum, uniform and discipline policies.

She said: "Our schooling suffers stagnation under a Government driven by narrow nationalism and ideology.

"The lack of choice available to parents over the school their children attend cements Scotland's educational Berlin Wall. It is our mission, our duty, to tear down that wall."

Ms Davidson also hit out at plans to expand green energy.

She said existing and approved wind schemes would provide the equivalent of 63% of Scotland's energy needs by 2015, well above the Scottish Government's new target of 50% by that date.

She added: "We are being led to believe that nothing can halt the march of the turbines when, as besieged communities up and down the country will testify, an urgent re-examination is needed, not acceleration."

A party commission on energy policy is due to report at the end of the month.

Another focusing on business will be set up in the New Year, she said, to come up with policies aimed at giving Scots firms a "competitive edge".

Ms Davidson accused the SNP Government of being too soft on crime, called for community sentences to be "rigorously enforced" and those who breached orders sent to prison.

She also defended controversial comments last month when she claimed only 12% of Scots were "net contributors" whose taxes amounted to more than their share of public spending.

She denied it was an attack on the state, but added: "It is time to halt and reverse the growth of Government."

The SNP said a 2p income tax cut would slash the Scottish budget by £1.1 billion. MSP Sandra White said: "Before she has even come close to explaining how she would pay for her first tax cut, she has now stated she wants to go even further."

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